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July 26, 2009

Education Vision 2020

Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal has asked all the States to prepare a vision document within the next three months on the targets to be achieved in the higher education sector by 2020. ‘‘All State governments must prepare a vision document for higher education. This document must contain the State’s target for higher education till 2020, including the current state of affairs, such as the number of universities and colleges and how the State perceives the quality of these institutes,’’ Sibal said last week during a meeting with higher and technical education secretaries from different States. The vision document ‘‘must then propose’’ how a State ‘‘plans to increase its gross enrolment ratio (GER)’’. Sibal said that such vision documents would help the Centre plug the existing holes in the higher education sector and make course correction. He has urged the States to increase their budgetary allocations for higher education, especially in view of a disturbing downward trend in the outlay for that sector. While asking the States to have a quality controller to assess and inform the people about their educational institutes, Sibal said that they should also have an ‘‘accreditation system’’ for their colleges that would grade their quality and resources and enable students to choose the best among them — a step that ‘‘would help create competition among institutions leading to their improvement’’. Sibal has also asked the State governments to fill up faculty vacancies in their higher educational institutions.

Education Vision 2020 should be considered a roadmap to a knowledge society founded on the principle of meritocracy (which obviously means there cannot be any room for caste-based quotas in such a system) and driven by knowledge generation and dissemination. This is not at all possible without a meaningful education system in place. And by a meaningful education system we mean a teaching-learning regime that is both valid and reliable — one that can truly assess the potential of a student and test his aptitude. Much then needs to change in the system in vogue that, as this newspaper has argued for long, is often neither valid nor reliable. In other words, an education vision document based on the same old and archaic system, with all its aberrations successfully incorporated, will be a mere ritual and cannot change the destiny of the nation. Sibal would, therefore, do well to ask the States to prepare radically different education blueprints — and not just in the higher education sector, but right from the primary school level. After all, education is a continuum, and systemic aberrations at the lower level take new and more debilitating forms at the higher level. This is not all. The minister should identify the most education-defaulting States, such as Asom, and ask them to redesign their entire education framework by involving those who matter (read academicians and education thinkers) and by de-bureaucratizing the system so as to free education from the vicious grip of stereotypical babus at the helm of education affairs who have no idea at all of the kind of education that students need in the 21st century to survive, sustain and contribute to nation-building. It will be interesting to see how the Asom government then comes up with its new education formula. SOURCE: THE SENTINEL

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